Updated: Sep 28
You’ve got a clear idea of who you’re targeting. You know how you want to talk to them. The last hurdle is getting to talk to them.
You can’t expect to find them flocking to your website, social media or physical location to hear what you have to say (at least not straight away!) You need to go where they are.
There are many possibilities when it comes to reaching people - the trick is to know where the right people for your business are hanging out. Below are some of the main channels used these days, and what you need to consider before choosing them.
Using your talents
When choosing how to reach people keep your skills, strengths and preferences in mind. You want to enjoy the process too - if you hate something you won't do it. If you struggle with technology, aim for in-person activities instead. If you hate public speaking, don't get on the stage. It's about finding the areas where you shine and using your strengths to give you leverage.
Social Media & Digital
Your target audience might help define what social platforms to focus on.
Think about where they might hang out for fun. Their age group might be an indicator (eg. Facebook for gen X, Millennials; Instagram, Tik Tok for gen Z) or their industry (eg. photographers are likely to be on Instagram.)
Think about where they might think to look for information. Are they reading blog posts or watching Youtube videos to learn how to do something or be entertained?
Work out which platforms attract your audience and focus on those. You don't need to use everything - use what makes sense for you.
When you create content or offer a service, try and think how a customer might find it. Are they using a search engine to find articles, blogs or videos with the information they need? Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) show relevant results on user searches. Google (and other search engines) use an algorithm to determine how relevant your web page/s are to a certain result based on location, keywords and data from other users. Results shown on a google search are either paid ads or organically ranked, both highly relevant. It takes some work to set this up, but search engines can be a great tool to draw people to your site.
Facebook allows you to create ads and target specific user groups by age, location, interest and life events (such as recently moved, travelling, recently married etc.) Instagram uses the same advertising platform, but also allows location tagging and subject tagging (hashtags) for organic posts, meaning your unpaid content can be found by anyone who is searching for the location you’ve tagged in your post, or who follows the subject hashtag you’ve put in your caption or comments. Other platforms often allow you to great paid content that will be shown to more people, just make sure you’re targeting the right people!
There is a group for everything on Facebook - often multiple. You can join these groups as your personal or business page, but often the group rules do not allow unsolicited selling. Check the rules when you join. You might get a chance to post a short promotion upon joining, or on particular posts. Otherwise, be helpful where you can, offer advice freely and contribute meaningfully to the community. Don’t private message members trying to sell to them - this is a big no-no and might see you banned.
Tradeshows, Conventions, Markets
Think about your target audience’s interests and whether there are any tradeshows, markets or fairs you could be part of to reach them. These will often involve a fee as well as the cost to set up your stall, so do your research to see if this is worth your time. With tradeshows and conventions there is often a specific industry targeted like HR professionals or Hospitality, so if your target audience falls under this it can be a good way to meet and get talking to your potential customers.
If you can speak in front of a group of people, consider offering your services as a speaker at a place where your audience will show up. This might be at a conference, seminar, or other meet-up (eg. women in business.) If you are lucky enough to be able to do this, make sure you deliver a speech that has real value for your audience, not just a sales pitch. Invite people to learn more by talking to you after, or ask if you can hand out a promotional flyer or collect email addresses.
If you have a physical location selling products, ask yourself if there is enough foot-traffic past your store. If there isn’t, look at different ways to draw people to your store or even moving to a place with higher foot traffic. If there is a lot of foot traffic but people are not coming in, ask yourself what you can do to appeal to your audience through window displays, offerings advertised and creating a welcoming environment.
If you can, consider sponsoring an event, possibly as a financial partner or offering goods. It could be as simple as including your branded promotional product or brochure in a goody bag, or as elaborate as being a key partner to making the event happen.
Be very strategic in who you partner with, make sure their target audience overlaps with yours, and always ask what you can get in return for sponsoring - most events will thank their sponsors at the event and through various media promoting the event. Sponsorship is also a great way to give back to the community that supports you.
Networking events are a great way to meet other people in the professional realm, whether it’s an event for business owners or professionals in a certain industry or age range. The type of group to join depends on your target audience, your industry and even your age range. Of course, don’t come to these with only selling in mind - use the opportunity to get to know people and learn about what they do. These places can be great for support, encouragement, and learning.
If you are keen to have a selling outcome from these groups, referral groups such as Business Networking International take small groups of business owners (one from each industry per chapter) and work together to find each other referrals.
Of course, networking requires talking to people! If you’re extroverted and engaging, you’ll probably enjoy these events and meet a lot of great people. If you’re more introverted like me, you can still network effectively by aiming to speak with few people in depth, rather than many people on a shallow level. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will become.
Also known as ‘Traditional Media,’ the difficulty with these channels is that it’s very difficult to track sales as a direct result of the ad, and very difficult to work out the return on your investment.
If you’re aiming to hit a particular audience in a specific location (especially an audience who does not spend a lot of time online) you might want to consider taking out a newspaper ad. Remember to include a clear offer and call to action so that someone who resonates with your ad knows what to do. Otherwise, for most businesses I would not recommend this method. However, a newsworthy media release or editorial is much more useful if you can have it picked up by journalists - free publicity! The downside is of course that you have no control over the information. Some newspapers also allow ‘advertorials,’ it looks like an article to the reader but is paid for by you. Again, it truly needs to be newsworthy.
Magazines are a little more targeted than newspapers in that they are very interest-based. You can advertise directly to your audience - Home cooks, equestrians, gardeners - it’s very targeted. The downside is these ads are costly, and not area-specific. Again, like newspapers you can pay for advertorials or if you’re very lucky, have an article written about you.
Hearing your jingle blasting through the airways can be a great ego trip for you, but it might not do much for your business. It can help raise awareness and get your name out there, but it’s hard to tell if the right people are being reached and if anyone is actually being moved to buy from you.
Posters & Brochures
You might get the opportunity to put posters up in community spaces or other businesses. If it makes sense for your business, then go ahead. If it’s free to display, there’s really no harm especially if you can get posters/brochures printed and designed without too much investment. If you have to pay to display (as with I-sites and many tourism activity boards) you need to be sure it makes sense for your business and that your audience will actually be seeing your display.
Now here’s the tricky part: getting out there and doing something. You can’t be in all places at once, so choose a few and choose wisely. Aim for activities and media that come into the crossover point between something you can do well (and enjoy doing) and something your audience will see. Start with working on two to three areas and expand from there once time, energy, and finances allow, but if you do those initial activities well you shouldn't need to do more until it's time to grow.
If you need a bit of guidance to reach your audience, I'm here to help small business owners step up their marketing game. Get in touch for a chat to see if Think Like a Marketer coaching is right for you.